Next up on the defensive player profiles is the line-backer slot. It is arguably the second best defensive position in the 2021 NFL Draft after the edge position.
One guy continues to be top dog in this draft class, but there are a couple guys snapping at his heels and making a name for themselves. There is a real chance that all three of these guys below go in the top 15 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Of course we start with one of the top talents, not only in the line-backer class but in the 2021 draft class as a whole.
Micah Parsons, Penn State
Micah Parsons has held the mantle as the top line-backer in the 2021 class for over a year now. Despite opting out, that title does not appear to have faltered in 2020. He didn’t need to play in the disrupted 2020 season after performing at an elite level for two years at Penn State. The team looked much weaker defensively without him this season.
Parsons operates on the outside and inside. He was recruited to Penn State as a pass rusher (and a highly rated one at that) and has continued to develop his skill set whilst showing immense potential still to be unleashed.
He possesses incredible athleticism and speed to go alongside his size, something which makes him a menace on both fronts whether he is rushing the passer, stopping the run or working in the open field. One thing that really stands out on tape is his intelligence and ability to read the run, regularly stuffing the gap. Considering he was recruited as a pass rusher it should come as no surprise that Parsons is an incredible blitzer once again using his combination of vision, speed & size to get to the quarterback.
The numbers stack up
I have not tended to focus on the stats in these write ups so far, but it is hard to ignore the numbers here. In 2018, he recorded the most tackles for Penn State with 82 combined. He did this not only as a true freshman, starting only one game. 2019 was even better, with 109 combined tackles and 5 sacks. This guy is an edge playing at middle line-backer, and it isn’t fair.
Parsons is not the perfect package of course. Few prospects rarely are. However, you have to look hard for his flaws. One area it would be in coverage, where at times he can jump the gun too early. At other times, he can focus too much on the quarterback and be drawn into false coverage. Not only are these instances few and far between, they are easily coachable at NFL level.
Parsons should easily be a top 10 selection. He is certainly knocking on the door of the top 5 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
Every year we see a selection of players jump up draft boards and come out of nowhere. Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (JOK) is one of those players in the 2021 NFL Draft. This is not a flash in the pan one season ascension however. He performed excellently in 2019. The exposure of the ACC and the Fighting Irish’s road to the playoffs in 2020 only added to the hype and expectation.
JOK is viewed as a smaller line-backer in this day and age, but what he lacks in that size he makes up for in athleticism. He combines his speed and vision to regularly make plays for the ball over the middle. His big play potential has been more apparent than ever in 2020. JOK can get from one side of the field to the other with frightening speed and regularly brings plays to a halt.
Where he can and has faulted in his career to date is first in his tackles. Whilst he makes the big plays and hits, he can look for this too often at times and go for the ball instead of wrapping up in the tackle. He can also at times be too twitchy for his own good and take a missed step on a play. This can lead to missed coverage or poor positioning. This was more the case in 2019, and improvements were made in 2020.
JOK may be listed as a line-backer but his size and speed power will allow NFL teams to mould him in their vision. That could be at middle line-backer, safety or anywhere on the defence. He looks set to be an incredibly exciting and versatile player to look out for in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Zaven Collins, Tulsa
It is fair to say that Zaven Collins can do just about everything. He possesses the size, speed, power and football IQ that enabled him to be a standout performers in the whole of college football. Many experts had Collins down as the most dynamic defender of the 2020 season. He has elevated an already high stock, pushing him rightly into the first round conversation.
Collins has shown the ability to not only rush the quarterback and stop the run, but also drop into coverage incredibly well. He has all the things you want from an ILB and more. He is the definition of a hybrid line-backer at the next level with the skillset to perform as a middle line-backer and the physicals to produce at the edge.
You will not know where he will line up from one play to the next, which makes him a devastating weapon for any NFL defence. He still has plenty of room to improve on his already impressive ability.
One area for improvement for Collins is his need to make every play. He can over extend himself on plays, leaving gaps open for the opposition. He can at times become caught up against a lineman as his hand placements need work.
Collins is a promising and raw talent. A well coached NFL team will be excited by his versatility and physicals.
Other names to look out for:
Moses slid down many draft boards due to the rise of the others around him. For a player once locked as a top 15 draft pick, he is now on the outside. Don’t take this as a slate on his talent; whoever bags him in the 2nd round will have themselves a player on their hands. Both Bolton & Moses may find their names being called Day 1 if the right team locks onto them, and they certainly possess the potential to warrant such a selection.
And just like that we are at the final hurdle of our 2021 NFL Draft first rounder profiles, the safeties.
@5yardcollege – Saturdays are for rushing, too!